A guide to the National Parks of Zambia - Somak Luxury Travel
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A guide to the National Parks of Zambia

Canoeing in Zambia

Zambia is Africa’s second-largest country and provides some of the best opportunities in the world for wildlife safaris. Whether you want to game drive by vehicle, on foot, or in a two-seater canoe this is an ideal safari destination. For those who really want to get away from human encroachment and discover a wild, untrammelled Africa Zambia is the place.

The nature of the experience depends largely on where you choose to go. The most visited part of Zambia is Victoria Falls. Although the town on the Zambian side is called Livingstone it is just as close to the waterfalls as Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side. This is the place to go for adventures, with an excellent infrastructure allowing helicopter and microlight flights, whitewater rafting and canoeing, and safaris on the look out for all sorts of animals, from elephants to horses.

Hippos on a game walk in Zambia

Next is South Luangwa, a far more tranquil experience, where the great African walking safari was pioneered. Norman Carr and Robin Pope became disillusioned with the conventional vehicle-based safari and realised that you saw more – and experienced more – when you travelled on foot. They worked out a way of doing this safely – which is not as easy as you think amongst so many predators – and never looked back. The Luangwa experience is thus ultimately close to nature, with gentle days spent strolling between different tented camps, tracking wildlife and making very close encounters. If you’d like an even more exclusive experience North Luangwa is a far less visited park. No permanent camps are permitted and only a few operators are licensed to run mobile tented safaris in the area. Bliss.

My favourite park in Zambia has to be the Lower Zambezi National Park, simply because it is where you can take to the water in two-man Canadian canoes. Canoe Safaris generally last three days – though they can stretch as long as ten – as you drift with the current down one of the world’s greatest rivers. Silent and unobtrusive, the canoes present a great way to meet wildlife, though croc and hippo, in particular, often get rather closer than is comfortable. Amidst towering baobab and marula trees the birdlife is spectacular, elephant herds large and untroubled, and predators plentiful.

Rainbow over Victoria Falls

Kafue is one of Zambia’s most underrated parks. Corruption and mismanagement let poachers run loose here for many years but this has improved over the last few decades, and now Zambia’s largest National Park – and the second largest in all of Africa – is back on the safari map. There are huge prides of lion, and more spieces of antelope than any other park in Africa. The Kafue River in many ways matches the Zambezi, but is far less visited. Elephant numbers are recovering and accommodation is in small, intimate lodges that really capture the remote atmosphere of the African bush. Best of all, it’s just a couple of hours drive from Lusaka, so easy to fit onto your itinerary.

In such a huge country there are bound to be parts that are overlooked, and in Zambia’s case it is the north. Bangweulu Lake has vast seasonal floodplains that rival neighbouring Botswana’s Okavango Delta, fed by 17 rivers but drained by one. Kasanka National Park, lulled by the sound of endless bats, streaming overhead. Or Liuwa Plain, near the border with Angola, where there are no roads, lodges or facilities: perfect territory for a mobile tented safari. This is where to go for Zambia’s answer to the Mara’s Great Migration: in November vast herds of blue wildebeest arrive from Angola, following the rains in search of grazing.

Zambia may lack the glamour of Botswana, the infrastructure of South Africa and most notably the beaches of Kenya and Tanzania, but in many ways it’s Africa at its most pure. For the ultimate African Safari Zambia is a very good choice.

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